2nd PDAC bans guns from meetings

In what might be a first for a Northeast community group, the 2nd Police District Advisory Council has banned civilian members from carrying guns to its meetings.

A new bylaw, which prohibits anyone but sworn law-enforcement officers from bringing guns to PDAC sessions, was introduced by Larry Genetti, the advisory council’s treasurer, and adopted by a 19–1 vote at its Feb. 12 meeting. It will take effect in 30 days, and extends even to those who have licenses to carry weapons, he said.

“We will be posting a sign on the door of the meeting room each month,” said Lynn Genetti, the PDAC’s chairwoman and Larry Genetti’s wife.

The PDAC is an umbrella organization made up of community group members, business owners and educators who regularly meet with police to exchange information about neighborhood crime trends. There are four PDACs in Northeast Philly. PDAC membership and meetings are not open to the general public.

Lynn Genetti said the 2nd District PDAC hasn’t had a problem with civilians bringing guns to its sessions, but she wanted to be proactive by bringing up the subject.

“The recent tragic events and discussions that are occurring nationally” prompted the bylaw proposal, Lynn Genetti stated last week in an e-mail to the Northeast Times.

She was referring to the ongoing public debate precipitated by the December murders of 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

Mark Mroz, the 2nd district’s former community relations officer, said Feb. 13 that he suggested the weapons ban. By law in Philadelphia, he said, anyone with a license to carry a weapon may do so openly. However, he said, in a phone interview, such a display at a community meeting might come off as intimidating. Since nobody is forced to attend a neighborhood session, he said, the organization should be able to make its own rules concerning firearms.

The 2d PDAC’s meetings are held at the Philadelphia Protestant Home, and that facility bans anyone except sworn law-enforcement officers from carrying firearms on its property, according to Larry Genetti.

“The Philadelphia Protestant Home is a private establishment and I would assume the Police Advisory Council has worked out some sort of monetary or other arrangement to hold their meetings there,” said District Attorney’s spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson. Therefore, she said, advisory council leaders can ban whomever they want to from attending their meetings since it is not in a public venue.

The PDAC’s move might be unprecedented for any kind of neighborhood group. Lynn Genetti said she is not aware of any other Northeast organizations that have banned firearms.

“This is new territory,” said Capt. Frank Palumbo, the 2nd District’s commander.

Right now, the captain said, a person with a license to carry a gun may be arrested on weapons charges if the gun is brought onto school property. However, he said he believes individual property owners may ask people not to carry weapons. If the person with the gun refuses to leave, Palumbo said, that person might be arrested on a defiant trespass charge, not a weapons charge.

Although those with carry licenses aren’t breaking any laws unless they’re on school property, the captain said, “I’m aware it makes people uncomfortable. … It’s a distraction at a public meeting.”

Mike Thaete, president of the 15th Police District Advisory Council said his organization does not address carrying firearms to the group’s sessions.

“It’s never been an issue,” he wrote in a Feb. 17 e-mail to the Northeast Times.”

Both Dolores Barbieri, president of the Somerton Civic Association, and Jack O’Hara, president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League, said their groups do not have bylaws banning weapons.

“It’s never come up,” Barbieri said.

“I guess it’s a sign of the times,” O’Hara said in a phone interview. “I don’t know how the general membership would feel about this,” he said, but added he planned to discuss it with board members. ••

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com